Every now and then, a band offers a solid reminder of how simple it can be to make good music. Bizarrely diverse instrumentation (glockenspiel!), easy-to-market gimmicks (tap dancer!), off-kilter genre adoption (Mongolian folk music!)—these strategies make for fun diversions, and sometimes good music, too. But Snow Patrol has always cared little about variety for variety's sake, preferring to create unadorned, refreshingly earnest rock anthems. It seems like after a decade of success, the eagerness should be fading, but A Hundred Million Suns might just be Snow Patrol's biggest, most genuine effort yet. Swelling guitar hooks and urgent, compelling choruses soar throughout, as frontman Gary Lightbody avoids washing the album in any one mood—contrast, for example, the coolly slick, acoustically based "Lifeboats" with the energetic, guitar-buzzing pump of "Engines." Between them lies "The Golden Floor," which incorporates fingerpicking and a scratchy percussive thump around Lightbody's restrained, seeping vocals. These aren't songs that would normally rock the arena, but the band's sincerity and effortless songwriting captivate on an individual level as well as a stadium-sized one. The anti-Snow Patrol faction out there—those who don't give anything straightforward the time of day— will likely shrug this album off as more of the same. But it actually feels novel that A Hundred Million Suns retains the same passion Snow Patrol has always had.
More from The A.V. Club